168th Bardot Blog: Medea & the PreClassical Tradition of Mythic Literature & Interpretation

A Young Irene Pappas in the dramatic role of Medeia

Most regular readers of these Bardot Blog postings can’t readily appreciate the prehistoric syntheses that alienate the Bardot Group from the subject tradition of scholarship and literary interpretation. Long offered by Classic Studies Academia, prior ages of the derivative literature, we find, renders it at least obsolescent, and best deemed now obsolete.

From time to time we assert anew that alienation, most vociferously so with respect to subject mythic personages that have a truly special luster, fame and notoriety from our farthest pasts. For we consider them to have been real persons by Early Greek Mythology. Such opera had them right biographically, howsoever sparely, and they are still our best sources of the historicity inherent the origination of Greece’s most famous mythic sagas and the robust offshoots of brilliant interpretation that they have induced.

Medea, whom we insistently spell Medeia [Meh-DAY-ah] after the Ancient Greek manner — by contrast, that is to her Latinized Greek by the Erasmian spelling — is just such a famous personage who lived to great glory during her early lifetime, but also to greatest condemnation before she had a chance to prove as famous as a leading governess over Ephyrea, the precursor region to Corinth/Korinthos and Megara/Megaris. What amazed all Greeks living from the 1st millennium BC onward, considering her truly hideous blood crimes against sovereign men, was how her blood crimes wrought her neither ire nor harsh redress from the Gods and Goddesses of any paramountcy in her lifetime. Even her mortal contemporaries, who adjudicated those capital crimes, reasoned properly that she should be exonerated after weighing the causes and benefits to her fellow humankind in performing singularly for their benefit. Those who perceived her a savior from tyranny, or worst oppression, saw her as a font of severest redress against the vile machinations of cruel and wicked men. Her blooded victims were proven mostly upstart, vaunting and presumptuous. They reckoned that they would never be punished – not ever ! — by their fellow mortals. Those who were saved from such miscreants also learned to admire the manner and method by which she dealt out a proper and yet severest justice whether approved or disapproved by “the Deities.”

The motive for this and a next series of postings is another artsy-fartsy book in the PreClassical Tradition of Greek Mythography. It’s a stupid and silly work that has earned an important book review from Mary Beard, a most respected classicist and most greatly praised contemporary Latinist. Being well versed in Roman Classical Mythology and its own mythography (by Ovid, Vergil and others nearly as famous), the Bardot Group takes no umbrage that she saw fit to afford her own sense of Medeia to prospective readers of inept makers of legend out of earliest historical period Greek Literature & Culture.

An Offensive Book in the PreClassical Tradition

        The cover nearby of the book by David Vann is as dark as its portrayal of Medeia within its covers. This makes it typical of the mythography by the Ancient Greeks and Romans,  wherein Medeia is a demi-goddess and high priestess of Hekate, “the Dark Sorceress at the Darkest Arts.” An imitator, he points up just how bad those Greeks were at writing about their illustrious forbears during the Bronze Age centuries of early Greece. We wonder that Vann appraises the mythographers that lived over four centuries later competent at their mythic subjects, even as he himself effaces them as real, even minimally plausible persons.

Vann begins his book with the flight of Jason and Medeia from Colchis, a region rich in gold at the far end of the Black (a/o Euxine) Sea. First in appearance in the stern of the Argo, Medeia crouches terrified, mean and nasty over her father Aietes, to whom she has several times amputated the corpse of her brother Prince Apsyrtus, as a means of halting a dreaded pursuit by superior ships.  That vanguard of chasing ships launched by her father Aietes halts to pick up the floating amputations — just the first of the many irrationalities that Vann respects from his source mythographer, Apollonius of Rhodes, and his Argonautica. Thus we must first discover of the imagined far east of the oldest Greeks the stupid and tactically inept denizens whom they regard barbarian. For wouldn’t any ship that found a floating hunk of the butchered Prince wave past his companion ships, ever forward and ahead in continuance of a chase, all awhile the directions from Aietes, presumably from far astern of a whole pursuit fleet? That way, Medeia’s ship, the Argo, would be under a relentless press of pursuit, to exhaust the fabulous crew that manned her.

Alas, most readers of this polemic book review must be made aware of the source of all that Vann has about Medeia and Jason, with respect to a most implausible feat of literature at its very best, that being the Argonautica, by Apollonius of Rhodes, written in the 3rd century AD. Very poorly received in its own time, that epic poet’s critics “laughed him out of the School of Alexandria,” the once intellectual center of the Hellenistic Period’s literati.

His epic work aside, Apollonius pioneered a literary motif in much use by the School, perhaps even at over-use ever since, especially by English novelists of our most recent eras of high literature. Called the “interior monologue,” Vann makes enormous his own utilization of the motif while quite ignoring altogether the historicity or prehistoric content that once was inherent  Apollonius’ own authoritative sources by which could be known, thus well remembered, about Jason and Medeia. The Bardot Group, moreover, has always taken greatest distress over books based upon classical mythological content that ignore entirely the great reform that Robert Graves brought to those subject persons by the Classical Greek Mythology. For his classical dictionary of myths and their sources led him and other mythographers since WWII to an alternative interpretation from Vann’s. Too obviously a trained adherent of the PreClassical School and Tradition, he ignores that Aietes and Medeia were denizens of the delta formed by the Eridanus (Po) River of Italy. He was Greek, albeit a Sun Worshipper and putatively a demigod as born to his sire Helios Hyperion off the lap of the comely Oceanidae Perseis, a Titaness out of the Oldest Greek Beliefs in Ocean and Tethys. Medeia was also the niece of her father’s sisters, one of whom, Pasiphae, became the Wanassa of the imperial Cretans and wife of the Last Minos by the House of Minos, whereas the other was one of several illustrious Cirkes, a luminary sorceress out of the cult tradition of the Goddess Hekate, a goddess popular among the earliest known Ionic Greeks (by Kadmeis/Thebes, the Isthmus and Attica).

The book makes clear that Vann has no knowledge of this necessary homework. Or he commits a greatest crime of intellectual dishonesty to have ignored what he must have learned. It makes him an incredulous poseur.

Just what does the PreClassical Tradition entail? There are no cardinal rules of reckoning, but the rules attached to the preclassic credo creates such dishonesty even today. It thrives amidst our ahistorical novelists, blinders-on humanities adherents and pseudo social scientists who presume that they’re somehow prehistorians.

The Tenets

(1) That Greek mythographers of the oldest historical periods are the most reliable sources upon which to rely, for having lived closest to the imputed times, all dates uncertain, of the mythical and prehistorical settings wherein the greatest personages that once populated them.

(2) That Greek sources of mythography are also the best upon which to rely because only the surviving works of greatest literature met all the contemporary tests of censorship and highly promoted revisionism that made fools of Renaissance and later classical studies periods of Scholars of Antiquity.

(3) That a fusion of recitative opera by Early, Classical and Roman Classical Mythologies, each of them with respect to their greatest works of mythic interpretation, allow whole anthologies  of mythic opera that conform to the rules of naming by Erasmus, whereby all place settings and names of personages take his orthography a/o spellings. That allows erasure of the Greek orthography for all the constituent opera. Thus Medea, a Latinized Greek name, must always be written instead of Medeia, the only accurate orthography awhile reciting the heroine’s name correctly.

(4)That the Ancient Greeks and the Roman Literati had no sure reckoning of dating does not militate against them as sources, even when using dates haphazardly from any periods of prehistory that they wished to conjure. In no way, that is, does that dating illiteracy besmirch the addiced authentic accounts of the oldest mythic sagas or the renditions at epic length as drawn earliest from Homer and Hesiod.

(5) That Greek history, accordingly, began with Homer’s two masterpiece epics of the 8th century BC, to which Hesiod’s Theogony and Works and Days were added as authoritative history of Greek religion sometime within the middle of the 7th century. Greek acculturation began with both those Masters, despite the allusions, by Homer in particular, that he was greatly owing to a Great Oral Tradition that long preceded his lifetime, (now estimated as middle 8th century to the first quarter, perhaps beyond, of the 7th century BC).

A Good Start by Shanower

(6)That the Trojan Saga, a composite of eight epic recitations, is the only true account of a great conflict that might be fictitious or not. The best way to know this particular Traditionalist creed is to buy Eric Shanower’s illustrated series of the Saga, Age of Bronze, from its beginning to its end of all major personages illustrated. Nonetheless, the Bardot Group stands in proof opposite that the war was a real war of Greek prehistory, because fought between philHellenic Troias, a feudatory of imperial Hattic Anatolia, and two major coalitions of Greeks, Danaans and Argives, who fought for contradictory ends and ambitions, some wholly besides the ultimate recapture of Helen.

(7) That the only relevant religion of the Greece was that finally shaped into the Olympian Pantheon, to which the Roman Pantheon stood in parallel. The former, by long evolution, became an orthodox polytheism in the late Lyric Age, 6th century BC, as reinforced through dramatic enactments, all carefully judged, that became the masterpiece Classical Greek Dramas of the 5th century BC.

(8)That the oldest names by their pronunciations, once transliterated into alphabetic script since the 8th century BC, cannot prove a correct orthography that’s anyway definitive of how their persons were actually called or addressed. So, too, for place names, howsoever large or small of geography, even those brought to most frequent mention by the earliest alphabetic writ. So, accordingly, the names of personages, and any toponym of ancient places, are a cardinal orthography of the PreClassical Tradition whether drawn from oldest Greek epic, or from Latin take-offs utilizing Erasmian or Latinized Greek.

Allow here, that the Bardot Group for whom I write is agreeable solely to that Eighth Rule aforementioned. It remains cardinal in absence of plausible philological alternatives. All the other seven rules, alas, have different degrees of absurdity, because there have always been extremely well-educated Greeks and Romans who really knew the earliest and  original mythology, all of which was recitative, even if there contemporary bards and.or mythographers fell well short of preserving the accuracy and prehistoric authenticity of accurately reiterated, original sources, taught by pedagogues.

So listed and briefly remarked, we return to Vann’s “interior monologues” by Medeia and what they bring forth to us about what her world composed or was “felt” by her to have been at  a precocious age of fifteen years old.

A Woman Obsessed with Introspection

It takes very few pages for Medeia to emerge as hideously a father hater, while also become self-centered, a conceited sorceress, and a gross manipulator of her overly superstitious contemporaries. She has early notions that she’s well-fated to become a King-Killer, especially of kings who have no graced ancestry or high pedigree by royal succession, and who fail, therefore, stature as the first of their patriarchy dynasty. There is no room for dynastic or sacral matriarchy in Medeia’s youthful mind, even though we know her mother Idyia was by that tradition of oligarchic governance. Medeia has no aspirations, therefore, to become a matriarch of any greatest possibility, or as she would well-fated to become over her mother’s Ephyreans. This kind of innate repudiation, too, is propensity of the PreClassical Tradition, to deny, and thus to obliterate, the Silver Age of Humankind that Hesiod recited and attributed to a long lost era of Matriarchy. The Tradition also disdains the classic observation of the historian Diodoros, who says, “Once we were all named after our mothers and often knew not our fathers’.” Accordingly, the tradition has never admitted of royal and sacral born bastards who were deemed entirely licit by their mothers and their loyal subjects.

The first half of the book has Medeia constantly introspective about where she stands in any world hierarchy of ranked personages, to whom she naturally belongs. She’s mostly highly introverted otherwise at beholding what the future betides for herself and her chosen closest associates — Jason performing as one solely for her convenience to get way from Colchis forever.. Vann has Medeia right in one respect, though, and at that I gladly grant him, that his Medeia has not a whit of prescience, reasoned anticipation of where developments lead or mantic gifts and capacities. Her world is opaque, insusceptible to readings of omens and signs. None of the Argonauts have those gifts of foresight either, Her mind doesn’t regulate her thoughts allegorically; that left me wondering whether and how Vann can produce a heroine who was famous as most capable of eavesdropping, for gathering highly secret intelligence or for sleuthing out plots brilliantly before they could be hatched. Those are gifts of the utterly unprescient. That omission, which I thought would be fulfilled, proved my only fall back upon any suspense that I might have gained from the book.

It had not been satisfied by Vann after he has taken Jason, Medeia and the Argonauts down the Hellespont and thus finally fully escaped from Aietes. I only realized that many pages at accomplishment by intuiting that the butchered corpse of Apsyrtus could no longer be stinking on the poop deck of the Argo. I guess there finally was some thoughtful soul of an Argonaut who dispensed with the bodily remains, because, it seemed, the torso and hips proved no longer useful or needed as some juncture.

The Return to Iolkos

Some suspense finally instilled the book by this famous phase of the epic story. Beginning at Page 283 out of the 416   that compose the whole book. By then we have earned some inklings of the more robust legacies bequeathed Medeia from her mostly unknown and yet knowable mother Idyia, and by her pedigree to have been directly descended from Helios/Hyperion on her father’s side. Next she confronts Jason’s pedigree by a late weakling father, Aeson, and discerns that his uncle, Pelias, is a usurper over an undistinguished patron clan that holds easy tyranny over Jason’s would-be subjects, the Iolkans. Grant Vann at last some intellectual curiosity to have found that the Iolkans were utterly lacking in maritime commerce and tradition, and that it was preposterous that Jason would have ever given it to them by the voyage of the Argo.

As he conveys that honesty, Pelias has no interest in advancing his realm among humankind for any posterity that could prove him legitimate as a usurper. Having sent Jason away on a major and perilous errand, he makes no fame for Iolkos by subjecting Jason and Medeia to slavery for six years. A proper book reviewer would not mention that fact. But I have to, because Vann is in a very big hurry to have Medeia gain full vengeance upon her enslaver Pelias. The rest of the book is about how she does so, and yet his is hardly the best mythography that can be written about how she won herself the exquisite delight of a perfect crime, just the first of many that know about Medeia at her still early age of 21 years old. For her second perfect murder ends the book, and shouldn’t count as such because Vann has it occurring at Corinth where Kreon is king over the Isthmians. In Early Greek Mythology, we explain. Kreon was the force retired regent over the High Kingdom of Kadmeis, as deposed by the remarriage of his preeminent sister Iocasta to Oedipus, the son of her late husband Laius, who was her new husband’s sire.

The machinations by aftermath to a flight from Iolkos, which soon has Medeia shunned as a cause of Jason “won abdication,” result from her reasonable compulsion to overcome the weak bully Jason, who so immediately begins to tryst with Kreon’s daughter Gaulke amidst the high city AcroKorinth of the Isthmus. No mention or realization of Vann, therefore, that her saga has Medeia earning supremacy over the theocratic matriarchy that Ephyrea once was in the 14th century BC, as a realm in whom her mother had an illustrious pedigree. No matter, the author wants us to know why Medeia found it quite easy to murder her two puling children, especially the youngest, while dispatching Kreon and Glauke to oblivion and Jason to ignominy. Believe me, he makes a mess of it all, to my wonderment that Mary Beard, who seems to appreciate his writing style (at least) volunteered her important review of Vann’s opus.

I can only guess that she found a book about Medeia too tempting a heroine of Antiquity to overlook, and once she had read it and found it’s grievous faults, found it easy enough to claim the book for some kind of recognition of the rehash its purports to be.

My Admitted Biases

I admit to have given Medeia considerable study. I know a lot about her saga with respect to what Vann has covered in his book. My published mythography about Medeia, however, concerns the period of her youth and lifetime as a refugee from Ephyrea at an age about 28 or 29 years old, or just upon the impending lapse of her marriage to Jason. For they formally married at last, after “running on the lamb,” but not in any manner that Vann describes. The marriage contracted was a sacramental wedlock of term, for a Great Year of 100 solar months, which spanned from her age 21 to 28, possibly into 29 years old. Accordingly, at that last age she became a suppliant to King Aegeus over Attica. Without any seduction on her part, she soon became his beloved consort mistress. She bore him a son Medeios circa 1370 BC, for which most wanted and blessed conception he made her his wife and queen consort over the Atticans.

Those storied years are my means to explain the greater complexity of her flight from Jason and Ephyrea with considerable assistance, with gratitude for a great deed, which Medeia performed singularly, by foiling a plot of invasion of the Isthmus. Despite the bloody trail of her causation, my book in which this story is featured early explain why and how she was exonerated and absolved for her blood crimes from capital redress.

I shall have more to say about my book as it draws close to its impending release this year. Or, better yet, I shall emend this posting’s ending by expanding on what I’ve said so briefly of its early contents.

for the Bardot Group


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